Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Paying it Forward

Pat Mulcahy shares his memories about coaching the men's team from 2000 to 2001. Pat started rowing in 1998. A great friend and teammate, Pat was one of several of our friends who sacrificed a great deal to keep the club together in spite of the the financial and existential challenges of the period between 1998 and 2003.

"My favorite thing about coaching was 'paying it forward.'  I can remember sitting in Coach Freudenburg’s apartment.  The men’s team had amazingly risen from the ashes of The Great Schism thanks to the tremendous coaching efforts of Griffin and Freudenberg.   Thanks to them, we were not only alive but we were competitive.   But we were about to be put to flames again, at the apartment we learned what little budget we had to work with was no longer.  The only thing that remained was the stipend for the coach’s salary.  To coach what??   A recreational jaunt at the lake?  No money for equipment, travel, entry fees, etc.  ……… we were left to die once again.  That’s the night I became coach…… in title.  But really that’s the night where an entire generation of rowers, made a decision like I did to say that this sport, this experience, this team has given us so much………we can’t let it die.   That’s the night 'we' paid it forward."

"We went on training, the entire coach’s stipend went to all the other needed expenses to keep our competitive team competing.  I also learned the schedule that Coach Freudenberg had planned for the upcoming season.  The first regatta on the schedule was at a place we had yet to row…….Cincinnati.   I was headed home for my first regatta, unfortunately as a coach, not a rower.   So I leaned on my two outstanding coxswains, the experienced rowers, my peers, my friends and we tried to get ready.  I think I was taking 2 or 3 studio art classes that semester.  It was crazy.  We tried our best to maintain the foundation that was built before us.  We had a small crew, but everyone there was willing to work.  We had four novice and 7 varsity rowers ready to race for the fall.  Our novice needed more water time or we couldn’t afford the entry fee, or maybe a little of both.  It was decided that we were only sending a varsity 8 to Cincy.  Do we move a novice up or do I row?  I put it to the varsity rowers and they wanted me to row.  Good, because I wanted to row.

"That leads me to my favorite memory.  Out of all the sporting events I had competed in, I rarely got nervous.  I was nervous when we showed up at Cincinnati.   I had hometown friends and family there to see this and I had no clue how we were going to stack up.  I wanted to build on the momentum that we had, but I knew I wasn’t in the best rowing shape because I was coaching too.  We had a solid team though, and we were built for 5,000.  We rowed to gold, and set the course record for a varsity 8.  After that race, I knew we could survive.  I knew we could compete.  It wasn’t the fastest boat I had been in (4 in Atlanta), it wasn’t against the best competition (novice 8 racing varsity 8 in SIRA), it wasn’t beautiful Knoxville in autumn.  It was just the moment I knew we were going to be okay, that we could play the role of the Phoenix once again."
"After Cincinnati, we had a great ride home and topped it off with a party at The Bunk.  We went on to have a good Fall season.   Then I think I was a little complacent because we did not transition well to the Spring.  We began the season with the the Clemson Massacre  which was not a good day at all (but not near as bad as Augusta my novice year – Disgusta Augusta where the Italian Stallion  almost got decapitated- Ned weigh nuff in two!).  As much as I wanted to be Figge, I couldn’t.  I had to find a balance of pushing these guys hard enough to be good rowers but at the same time keeping them my friends.  Because these guys were my peers, some with the same or more rowing experience.  I don’t think those guys hate me, so that’s a plus."

"And those that followed continued to pay if forward, I had fun assisting Weckman coach.  I was very glad to meet this cocky novice rower named Weaver when Holman was coaching.  My favorite things about rowing in order were 1. The people,  2. The competition,  and 3. Traveling to different places.  People that know me, know that #2 was pretty dang close to #1.   And I saw that same love for competition in this punk kid (and I say that lovingly because I was the same punk kid), Matt Weaver, who thought he could take me in basketball.  He was the kind of kid we needed in the program, the kind that would see this through.  It makes me so proud to see that all that was sacrificed by not just the coaches, but also the coxswains and rowers, has led to heights in this program that I never thought were possible.  Thank goodness, we have had Dan Lavit in our corner through all of this.   I know he deflects much of the credit but I know the program couldn’t have continued without him.  I only hope that future coaches and rowers get the same experiences of falling in love with a sport, the rush of competition, the thrill of winning, the camaraderie of a team, the chance of traveling the states, and the chance to meet some genuinely great people with whom you will make lasting memories."
"Okay, not everyone is going to find the love of their life through rowing, so I’ll leave that one out.  I’m just glad I did."

1 comment:

  1. Love the memories Pat. Btw, was I cocky? I'm ok with it if I was but just wondering. And I really don't remember anything about the basketball game we played, although I know it did happen. I must have went unconscious and dropped 25 on you....